Moulton Park

Pages 316-320

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the County of Northamptonshire, Volume 5, Archaeology and Churches in Northampton. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1985.

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(OS 1:10000 aSP 76 SE, bSP 76 NE)

The parish of Moulton Park originated as a Royal Deer Park attached to Northampton Castle. It lies to the N.E. of Northampton and was formerly extra-parochial. It was constituted a parish between 1851 and 1861, although for ecclesiastical purposes it was annexed to Moulton (VCH Northamptonshire IV, 94). The parish is sub-circular in shape and 190 hectares in area. It lies for the most part at around 120 m. above OD but falls away to the N. and S. though never below 105 m. above OD. It is bounded by Abington and Weston Favell on the S., Kingsthorpe on the W., Boughton on the N. and Moulton on the E. The sub-soil is chiefly Boulder Clay with Great Oolite Limestone, the sands, clays and limestones of the Estuarine Series and a small patch of Northampton Sands on the lower ground.

Prehistoric and Roman

The cropmarks of a rectangular enclosure were said to be visible on air photographs (taken by Messrs. Kemp of Southampton; not seen by NDC or RCHM) at c. SP 766649. A trial excavation in 1971 failed to locate the site or any other definite archaeological features and the cropmarks are assumed to be natural (BNFAS 7 (1972), 58–9; NDC A33). Ring ditches have also been noted on similar air photographs (at c. SP 778648). A trial excavation in 1971 located a small ditch containing Roman pottery of the 1st century (BNFAS 5 (1971), 22; NDC A34, R61). Both sites have since been built over.

a(1) Iron Age Settlement (centred on SP 77756475), on Boulder Clay, at 123 m. above OD, was excavated by the NDC Archaeological Unit in 1971–2 when two enclosures were discovered. The first was sub-circular and defined by a single ditch with a surviving width of 1.75 m.-3 m. and a surviving depth of 0.6 m.-1.25 m. The interior contained two penannular gullies, probably house-sites, with internal diameters of 7.5 m. and 10 m., and various other gullies. The pottery from one of the houses belongs to the late pre-Belgic Iron Age while that from the other was of Belgic type, and it is probable that the site was occupied in the late 1st century BC and early 1st century AD. The second enclosure was defined by a further system of ditches with surviving widths 1.25 m.-2.25 m. and surviving depths of 0.75 m.-1.5 m. Gullies within the vicinity of the enclosure ditches defined further possible house-sites, the best preserved being about 10 m. in diameter. Only Belgic type pottery was found in association with the enclosure which probably dates to the early 1st century AD (Williams 1974b, 5–43; NDC P72).

Medieval and Later

ab(2) Deer Park (centred SP 770648; fiche Fig. 32), comprised the whole of the present parish. It is first mentioned by name in 1201 when hay is said to have been bought 'to feed the beasts in the park of Northampton'. It must, however, have been in existence at least as early as the reign of Henry II for in 1227 the sheriff was ordered not to distrain the Abbot of Peterborough for failing to enclose the King's park other than had been customary in the time of Kings Henry II, Richard and John. It is surmised that the park originated out of the lands of two small estates, one of half a hide, the other of one virgate, in the parish of Moulton which in the Domesday Book are said to have been held of Countess Judith by Biscop and Hugh (VCH Northamptonshire IV, 94). These estates are not mentioned subsequently and presumably escheated to the overlord. The park appears to have been an appendage of Northampton Castle for it is often called the park of Northampton and frequently the sheriff of the county was also the keeper of the park.

Fig. 32 Deer park; (3) moated site.

There are frequent references to the park throughout the medieval period attesting to its stocking with deer, the delivery of deer from the park to Westminster, the use of timber and brushwood from the park for buildings and heating and the prosecution of poachers. By 1560 the park was in a state of decay. The two lodges within it could not be repaired for under £20 and £10 respectively while the park wall was so low and in places breached so that 'the dere thereof dayle and nightlye go oute and fede in the fieldes next abowte adoiyninge'. The two lodges were in existence by 1397 and survived until about 1861 when they were pulled down. The Great or West Lodge lay in the area now occupied by the buildings of Nene College, formerly Moulton Park House (SP 76306433), while the East Lodge is said to have lain on the site occupied until recently by Moulton Park Farm (SP 77556435) though the possible moated site to the N. (3) may mark its original position.

The only surviving feature of the deer park is part of the stone wall which formerly completely surrounded it. Lengths of the wall exist on the N. side of the park along Boughton Lane (c. SP 771655), while on the S. side the boundary can still be seen between Nene College (c. SP 764642) and the Parklands Housing Estate (c. SP 771639). It is marked here by a bank with a hedge on top but where the bank has been worn away by the various footpaths crossing it the stone wall can still be seen surviving within the bank. On the W. side of the park facing Boughton Green Road (SP 760644–765652) a long stretch of renewed wall survives. Two carved stones, one inscribed 'HAYFORD' (Heyford), and the other ROTTRO' (Rothersthorpe) are built into the inner face of this wall. Further inscribed stones were noted in the park in 1908 naming the villages of Dalyngton (Dallington), Deene, Islap (Islip), Clipson (Clipston) (now in NM) and Drayton, while in the early 19th century one naming the village of Crick was recorded. These carved stones bear witness to an old custom whereby certain villages in Northamptonshire were allotted a portion of the wall to repair. The men of the villages of Guilsborough, Orlingbury, (Chipping) Warden, Norton and Corby were said by jurors to be liable for this work in 1329 while in a law case of 1549 120 Northamptonshire villagers were said to pay an annual rent towards the repair of the wall since 'tyme out of mynd'. The villagers, however, were not responsible for the repair of the whole length of the wall for, in 1328, the sheriff of the county was required to ascertain by jury what proportion of the wall was to be repaired by the Crown and to carry out the work accordingly (Bridges 1791 I, 420; Baker 1822–34 I, 52–3; Whellan 1874, 234; VCH Northamptonshire IV, 94–5; Leach 1907–8; Steane 1975, 228–9; Northamptonshire Archaeol 9 (1974), 106–7; CBA Group 9 Newsletter 4 (1974), 24; NDC M192).

a(3) Moated Site (?) (SP 775646; fiche Fig. 32), lay 250 m. N. of the former Moulton Park Farm, on Boulder Clay, at 124 m. above OD. Air photographs taken in 1947 (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 4248–9), show the almost ploughed-out remains of a roughly square enclosure, 50 m. across and surrounded by a ditch. By 1953 (RAF VAP V58–RAF-1122, 0052–3) the site had been destroyed. Though not certain, it was probably a small moated site, possibly for a deer park keeper's lodge and thus the predecessor of the Moulton Park Farm (NDC M441).

(4) Cultivation Remains. There is no documentary evidence of cultivation within Moulton Park in the medieval period. Air photographs, however, show faint traces of a block of curving ridge-and-furrow running S. on to a low sinuous headland, just W. of Moulton Park Farm (c. SP 772644). In two other places blocks of straight, rather narrow, ridge-and-furrow are visible, lying within existing fields (c. SP 765645 and 775649). These are likely to represent relatively late, perhaps 19th-century, cultivation (RAF VAP CPE/UK/1994, 4248–51; V55–RAF-1122, 0049–53, 0069–75, 0108–10; FSL 6565, 1917–8, 1943–5).